Toward the end of 2019, and on to 2020, covid 19 brought in radical changes in every aspect of our lives. But the question we should each ask ourselves is, what should we anticipate or improve next? While we’re all tempted to believe that things will go back to the way they used to, the reality remains that most law firms have discovered new ways to adapt to the challenges brought by the pandemic.
These new legal trends will continue to reshape the legal industry and how law firms deliver legal services to clients in the years to come. We review since the pandemic began and the new capabilities legal firms have discovered to support services delivery during these uncertain times. The focus is on the legal trends witnessed throughout 2021.
There’s A-Level Ground for All Players in The Technology Playing Field
The past two years saw the widespread adoption of cloud technologies. This is one trend that quickly accelerated in the wake of the pandemic. According to Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report, many law firms adopted technology in such a way that has never been witnessed in the legal industry before the pandemic:
- 85% of law firms used some form of software to manage their operations
- 83% met most of their clients virtually
- 79% stored the firm data in the cloud
- 73% adopted online transactions
- 62% accepted electronic documents like e-signatures
According to research data, 95% of these law firms plan to use these technologies long after the pandemic. This indicates that technology adoption has become an indispensable trend for most law firms. Another research by the 2021 Thomson Reuter Report on the State of the Legal Market revealed that 84% of law firms planned to invest more in technology beyond the pandemic.
A Future Centered on Clients
Legal professionals need to ask themselves what they need to do to improve service delivery to clients if they’re to understand what’s best for their law firms entirely. This question helps you to create a client-centric law firm design that focuses more on client needs above everything else. The catch here is to make your law firm easy to work with to draw in more clients.
This approach also helps you assess several options applicable during uncertain times, as witnessed during the pandemic. For example, how necessary are in-person meetings when you can achieve the same objective through face-to-face meetings via video conferencing? And if there are any benefits that the legal industry has reaped from technology adoption, clients stand to benefit even more.
Still, it’s important to remember that in this continually changing world, not everyone has experienced the same pandemic effects. Within the legal ecosystem, client needs, and expectations can never be the same. It is therefore up to law firms to customize their technologies to meet the needs of every type of client.
This means the stakes are high for most legal professionals. In an industry that continues to get more competitive, it’s the most tech-savvy and customer-centric law firms that stand to reap the benefits, especially where customer acquisition and retention are concerned. Meanwhile, those firms not willing or are slack in moving with the trends risks locking themselves out of many valuable industry opportunities. This is likely to stifle their growth objectives in a market that continues to evolve.
More Clients Prefer Remote Options
Research data shows that 69% of clients preferred online payments. Another 61% chose automated payments and mobile payments, respectively. As remote connections continue to gain momentum, 2021 witnessed more clients opting for remote communications with their attorneys. This is a sharp contrast to a survey in the 2018 Legal Trends Report in which only 23% of customers were willing to use this method of interaction with their lawyers. But the recent 2021 survey shows the number of customers choosing remote communication and payments has since risen to 79%. But this doesn’t mean clients now prefer a fully remote legal experience. The same survey shows that 67% of clients liked working with a law firm that offers both remote and in-person services.
Still, it’s important to remember that remote communication isn’t a new trend. If anything, clients, and law firms have interacted virtually in the past through calls, mail, and text messaging. It’s only recently (the last three years) that clients’ preferences changed to a more in-person experience, a trend that was quickly nipped in the bud in the wake of the pandemic. But 2021 saw more and more customers prefer contacting and discussing most aspects of their cases with attorneys virtually.
Growing Law Firms Continue to Maintain a Competitive Edge
A review of multi-year cohort analysis data shows that law firms less than ten years old demonstrated considerable performance across most key metrics. This saw them achieve an unrivalled year-over-year revenue growth compared to older players in the market. This can be partly attributed to their eager and timely adoption of essential technologies that improved firm efficiency and client satisfaction, increasing their billable work significantly within the past year.
More Firms Are Likely to Invest in Better Software
To determine where law firms are likely to invest their capital in the future, Clio surveyed various law professionals and respondents. The overall conclusion was that most law firms plan to improve their existing technology resources to improve their service delivery and firm efficiency further. 63% of those surveyed plan to invest in more office space, and another 63% said they’d invest in software solutions.
Growing Firms May Spend Less on Office Space
An estimated 71% of newly established or growing law firms prioritize remote service delivery over in-person experiences. This trend became popular when law firms realized they didn’t need to travel to meet a client and didn’t need to conduct most virtual meetings at the office, so the traditional office space was discarded.
One of the new capabilities law firms developed within the context of the pandemic included creative ways of interaction between lawyers and clients with 81% of growing law firms continue to create new opportunities that support remote working for staff.
Changing mindset to out-of-office working arrangements could take different forms within the legal world. Firms could use smaller office space to conduct official duties that require in-person client services while handling the bulk of legal operations within alternative spaces like private home offices.
These smaller office spaces could be shared with other businesses, which can be beneficial in many ways. For example, law firms could spend less on office spaces and office utilities, improving their revenue growth.
Set Your Firm on The Right Path to Success
Besides having a highly qualified legal team there are factors you need to consider if you want to see your firm succeed amidst such uncertain times. First, you must know what your clients want, their ever-growing expectations and preferences. And this should be your top priority because, without clients, your law firm will go nowhere.
Secondly, work on your firm’s efficiency to ensure top-notch customer service delivery. And this goes beyond organizing various systems of operations. You should also ensure that everyone’s interests — including clients, partners, and legal staff — are taken care of. The best approach to get your firm’s operations running smoothly is by being aware of the emerging trends affecting the legal industry and finding ways to keep up with them. These include essential technologies to track time, clients, cases, and payments.
LawBillity time tracking software provides a wide selection of legal features that include mobile time tracking, easy billing and online expense tracking. Find out what more LawBillity can do for your law firm or see for yourself with a 14-day free trial.